Definition of religion

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by S.A.M., Nov 30, 2008.

  1. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    We're just quibbling over terminology, but the point over which we're quibbling is important. To say:
    is to express a hypothesis, not an assumption, because of the conditional word "may." You're not saying, "I have an unshakeable faith that, regardless of the existence or absence of evidence, there are invisible pellets in this tube." That's an assumption, and that's precisely the way nearly all religionists "believe" in their mythologies. What you're saying is, "Based upon my experience with this apparatus and the past behavior of the universe (i.e., under these conditions there has always been a pellet), I judge there to be a reasonable probability that there is a pellet here, and due to unusual but not extraordinary conditions, it's obscured from view." That is a hypothesis.

    Like all hypotheses, yours was based on both evidence and reasoning, and you were not certain that it was true, so you went on to test it like a good scientist. An assumption may be based on evidence and reasoning too, in which case the distinction from a hypothesis is pedantic, but it may also be based on creative or wishful thinking, or on a preprogrammed instinctive belief. I suppose an assumption can be tested by the scientific method, in which case it's treated as a hypothesis.

    To once again remind ourselves that this is the Linguistics Board, we should note that perhaps the definition of "hypothesis" can include "assumption," but it's key to the practice of science that our laboratories not be overbooked by people testing assumptions that are no more than crackpottery. This might even be a corollary to Occam's Razor ("Test the simplest explanation for a phenomenon first and get it out of the way before you take a chance on wasting your time testing a complicated explanation"). An explanation for a phenomenon that is not based on evidence and reasoning is unlikely to be a simple explanation to test, and it could easily be a colossal waste of time
    Of course. But you're not assuming it's there, you're simply reasoning, based on past evidence, that it might be there. That's a big difference.
    Sure, but it's a reasoned faith, not an irrational, instinctive faith. That makes all the difference. Your faith in the mere possibility of an invisible pellet was reasoned.
    You apparently did have a reason for thinking that, because the first thing you did was wash the tube. You reasoned that something could be obscuring your view. You didn't take it to an exorcist.
    Why is that an assumption? We have been performing the act that we call "observing" for millions of years, since long before we had a forebrain powerful enough to philosophize about it, and that act has gathered data about the natural universe that we have tested for all those millions of years and found to be acceptably reliable. It's not even a hypothesis any more. It's a canonical theory that transcends science. We now know that there are exceptions such as intoxication, illness, hypnotism, brainwashing, and in court trials we have even learned that what people remember about what they see can be affected by what they expected to see, but nonetheless observation has been "proven beyond a reasonable doubt" to be satisfactory evidence in the practice of the scientific method, so long as it is corroborated by testing and peer review.
    I think I just covered that. This is a textbook explanation of why scientific experiments must be duplicated during a peer review.
    Excuse me??? Myths purport to explain things, but they tend to operate at a metaphorical level, at best. Many of them, as I've explained a number of times, are instincts that Jung calls archetypes, motifs preprogrammed into our synapses by evolution. Some are survival traits from an era whose dangers we can't imagine, and others are the random result of genetic drift and bottlenecks.
    Give us a for-instance. And please pick something reasonably current, not from the 16th century when we were still getting our scientific act together.
    That's hardly the purpose of science. To the extent that it works out that way, it's merely the inevitable result of the fact that so many of our myths are preprogrammed archetypes, and conflict with reality. This is where metaphor comes in, but a surprising percentage of the population have no place in their cognitive process for metaphor.

    If there's something regrettable about the human condition that we've identified in this discussion, that might very well be it. To tie this up with the topic of this thread:
    • Religion is metaphor.
     
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  3. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Fraggle:

    An assumption is not "an unshakeable faith"

    In the words of Isaac Asimov:

     
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  5. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    An "assumption" is not what you were making, either.
     
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  7. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    To begin with, it was. I could just as easily have found nothing.

    Perhaps we define assumption differently?

    In logic, more specifically in the context of natural deduction systems, an assumption is made in the expectation that it will be discharged in due course via a separate argument.
     
  8. disease Banned Banned

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    Well, the alternative is that we don't observe, i.e. we're blind, deaf, etc. Of course we assume we can observe; possibly because when we're awake at least, that's what we do rather than sit around with our eyes closed and our fingers in our ears. Although if we're still awake that would mean still observing - the audiovisual center would not see any 'external' input though.

    Myths are instinctive, yes. We generally invent a mythological explanation then use logic to make it 'fit'.
    Are you implying that humans are logical first? I think we apply both; or where logic can't provide a reason, we stick to myth. The idea that logic can overturn mythology is possibly 'illogical' in itself, from a mythical standpoint. Except we don't see things one way or the other, we see and interpret things both ways.

    Mythology is not 'debunked' by logic, logic explains the mythologies, mythologies 'require' logic. We simply don't function in a 'logical only' mode.
    In that sense, Jung's logic and the 'imaginary' myths that logic purports to explain, are just another mythology, that replaces one.
     
  9. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    If you go with Asimov's definition, an assumption is not testable. The hypothesis that the DNA was present in the tube, and could be obtained by a suitable process, is therefore not an assumption, as it was manifestly tested. Indeed, you would not have been interested in such a proposition had it not been testable.

    Exactly. The possibility of an alternate outcome, with a different impact on the validity of the hypothesis under test, is exactly what makes the proposition testable, and so a hypothesis and not an assumption.
     
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    I'm not sure I have enough data to make that decision. There's probably no general answer. I think that some people try harder, or at least more consciously, to make logic-based decisions than other people, but we almost all try.

    But the fact that humans are logical at all is one of the abilities conferred by our massive forebrain that makes us qualitatively different from the other animals. Yeah yeah, I know other primates, parrots, dolphins, and the rest of the most intelligent members of the animal kingdom also clearly perform reasoning, but we're a couple of orders of magnitude more adept at it and most of the time our lives are guided by reason more than theirs. I'll be happy to let Koko and Alex (his successors anyway) and some cetaceans prove me wrong.
    How can logic even play a key role in a "mythical standpoint?"
    I don't agree with that at all. That's as bogus as calling atheism a "religion." It looks like our next thread will have to be about the definition of "mythology."

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  11. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Hmm the way I see it, a hypothesis is an explanation of observable phenomena. I don't think "guessing" the presence of an invisible pellet is observable phenomena. Once I find the invisible pellet, it is a useful assumption. But I do not see where I say, if I do this, I will see this. I'm saying, because I think its there, even though there is no observable evidence, I will consider it is and proceed accordingly

    Thats only if there is no previous evidence. If previous evidence says pellet = DNA, then assuming that no pellet also equals DNA, or maybe not, is not an alternative outcome, its an alternative assumption.
     
  12. iceaura Valued Senior Member

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    Apparently.

    What assumption did you make? I don't see one. I see questioning of someone else's assumption, and investigation of possibilities with - explicitly - no assumption made.
    That's not an assumption. That's a refusal to assume.

    You did in fact observe the pellet, using procedures familiar to you and planned in advance. So not only was the existence of the pellet observable, you knew how to observe it.

    What phenomena involved here is supposed to be unobservable? Your guess?
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2008
  13. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    You are totally wrong. There was no absence of evidence, the evidence was there all along, Sam, as a simple test would demonstrate. Claims of theists are what constitutes absence of evidence, Sam. No matter how much testing. Nothing. Nada. Zilch.
     
  14. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Unfortunately a scientific definition of "evidence" is hard to find. The consensus of the online dictionaries' definition of "evidence":
    • That which tends to prove or disprove something; a thing or things helpful in forming a conclusion or judgment; knowledge on which to base belief or disbelief
    So by this definition, the evidence was there, it just wasn't visible.

    Nonetheless, that is a counterintuitive definition of "evidence." One would assume that evidence is evident.

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    The second definition in the dictionary is more in line with colloquial speech:
    • Something that makes plain or clear; an indication or sign; an indication that makes something evident
    I think Sam's assertion that she assumed (or suspected or hypothesized or whatever) the existence of the pellet, even though there was no evidence for its existence, can be taken as correct. Evidence of whose existence one is not aware can hardly be counted as valid motivation for a belief. But the reasonable suspicion that evidence exists is motivation for a hypothesis, and the obvious way to start testing the hypothesis is to search for the evidence. Sam had a reasonable suspicion that the pellet existed, and she found the evidence to turn that suspicion into an observation.

    A theory is based on evidence. A hypothesis can be based on nothing but reasoning, as hers was.
     
  15. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks Fraggle, I was waiting for your input.

    As I said earlier, I consider a hypothesis to be an explanation of observable phenomena [which is what separates science from non-science, in my opinion] which describes the action and the result of that action as observations which can both be measured, or assessed.

    Do you define it some other way?
     
  16. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    Come now, Sam was comparing this to "absence of evidence" which is little more than an argument from incredulity.
     
  17. (Q) Encephaloid Martini Valued Senior Member

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    A "tentative" explanation of observable phenomena.
     
  18. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Yes, and one that is testable.
     
  19. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    I don't consider a hypothesis as tentative, it has to be proved false or not false. The fact that its a hypothesis adequately defines its status.
     
  20. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, that's what makes it testable, and so not an assumption.

    Perhaps not, but the pellet in your example was observable. You did, in fact, see it in the end, so I don't see why you're talking about an "invisible pellet." What you DID do was "guess" the presence of an as-of-yet unobserved (NOT unobservable) pellet.

    There's a huge difference between hypothesizing something for which there is as of yet no observed evidence, and assuming something for which it is not possible, even in principle, to observe evidence of.

    And that is exactly what makes this proposition a hypothesis, and not an assumption. And let's not forget that by "proceed accordingly" you mean "go look for observable evidence and, if it's not forthcoming, discard the hypothesis."
     
  21. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    But the definition that was proposed is an "explanation," so I think qualifying it as a "tentative explanation" is appropriate. It could also be a possible explanation, a potential explanation, a speculative explanation... We're not writing a dictionary here, we're just trying to find all the nuances. "Explanation" without a qualifier is inappropriate because it sounds like you've already found the answer.
     
  22. S.A.M. uniquely dreadful Valued Senior Member

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    Hmm, the way I was trained, a hypothesis is a statement. And then you do everything you can to disprove it.

    quad:

    I did not, at any time, see the pellet. I found the DNA by assuming it was there.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2008
  23. quadraphonics Bloodthirsty Barbarian Valued Senior Member

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    Yes, and an assumption is a statement that is not testable, so you don't bother trying to prove or disprove it, because it is not possible to do either of those things.

    Okay, so you "observed" the pellet (or DNA or whatever; the details aren't important).
     

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